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  • Problems of Proto-Slavic Historical Morphology: On the Basis of Old Church Slavic
  • Robert A. Orr
Jussi Halla-Aho. Problems of Proto-Slavic historical morphology: On the basis of Old Church Slavic. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 2006. pp. 289. [Slavica Helsingiensia, 27.] Also available at: (last accessed March 9, 2010).

Problems of Proto-Slavic historical morphology (SHM) has a dual purpose. In addition to a discussion of the topic referred to in its title, Halla-Aho has included an appendix giving an "…exhaustive classification of Old Church Slavic nouns and adjectives," reference to which is buried at the end of the blurb on the back cover.

SHM itself consists of a detailed table of contents (3–8); an Introduction (9–23), where Halla-Aho outlines his initial assumptions, including one or two notes of varying length on his assumed phonological and phonetic developments, partly building on his own previous work (14–19); abbreviations, and references (19–23); and chapters on "Old Church Slavic nominal classes" (24–110; I), "Proto-Slavic Verdumpfung2 or not?" (111–92; II), and "On the Dative singular endings in Old Church Slavic" (193–215; III). The Appendix to Chapter 1 takes up about a third of the book (216–89) and claims to be a complete list of all the nominal lexemes actually attested in OCS. These are grouped according to stem class, with occasional useful, albeit minimal, etymological information, including some suggestions of Halla-Aho's own.3 Halla-Aho cites a response to Orr 2000b as one of the [End Page 153] main aims of SHM (11),4 and parts of that response are scattered through the first two chapters, dealing with both overall theoretical issues and matters of detail. A review could easily bog down in minutiae; my own selection of issues may differ from Halla-Aho's. He has presented some formidable counterarguments to my proposals, while I feel disappointment that he appears to have ignored certain material. If in turn Halla-Aho reads these lines, he may well feel that I have ignored or misinterpreted certain points. The present review, therefore, will only partially form a response to a response.

Rather than putting all references at the end of the work, Halla-Aho allots each section its own set (21–23,100–10, 180–92, 211–15, 289). This leads to some duplication, though not as much as might be thought. Unsurprisingly, Halla-Aho 2005, Holzer 1989, and Arumaa 1985 are cited in two places and Shevelov 1964 and Georgiev 1969 in three.

Two major omissions, especially surprising in the context of Halla-Aho's more purely lexical material, are Meillet 1902, 1905, and ESJS, the new etymological dictionary of OCS currently being published in Brno. Another omission, surprising in view of the interface between phonology and morphology and the related Common Slavic problems discussed by Halla-Aho, is Ferrell 1965 (see below). Less central omissions, but still worthy of mention, are Žolobov 1998 in Halla-Aho's discussion of the dual (27–28); Holzer's (1991) treatment of zvonъ (16) and related forms (although Halla-Aho cites of related material by Holzer further down on the same page); and Shapiro's (1982) of ne.ję.sytъ, 'pelican', a form dismissed by Halla-Aho as "not well understood" (220).

One overall problem with SHM is that Halla-Aho, like several other scholars (e.g., Lunt), is trying to do two things at once: to treat an aspect of reconstructed Proto-Slavic and Common Slavic while making a contribution to the study of OCS. In a narrow sense, the concept OCS refers to the language, most likely based on a set of dialects from Western Bulgaria and Macedonia, which can be reconstructed from a [End Page 154] finite, restricted corpus of texts.5 This is illustrated well by the approach taken by ESJS, where only forms actually attested in OCS itself warrant full dictionary entries, cf. mitě (see Orr 2000a: 191).6 Many scholars have been comparatively lax about OCS material per se (see Orr 2000a, 2003a, 2008).7 This may reflect the limited range of material offered by...


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